Social Sciences

Besant Hill School’s History and Social Sciences Department implements a college preparatory program that strongly encourages students to think critically about their subject materials. We inspire students to examine historical and author bias with a thoughtful eye.

By assessing history and social sciences critically, we emphatically echo our school’s philosophy that we are all lifelong learners, using the Socratic method of discovery. The courses offered in this department are:

  • Cultural Geography
  • World History
  • U.S. History and Honors U.S. History
  • AP US Government and Politics
  • Art History
  • Psychology

The department challenges students to examine history, psychology, and art through a multi-faceted and interdisciplinary approach, incorporating many supplementary materials and texts to illustrate a myriad of peoples’ perspectives.

Course Descriptions

U.S. History

US History is an intermediate level survey course of American history. The first semester is largely focused on domestic policy and isolationist America, whereas the second semester delves into imperialist, expansionism, foreign policy, and the wars and politics of the 20th Century. Goals for this course are for students to understand, evaluate, and analyze primary and secondary source material in order to effectively create solutions to issues that the United States faces today.

World History

World History at Besant Hill School is an intermediate level course designed to investigate the development of the world’s civilizations by studying their political and economical systems, as well as their social, cultural, and religious contributions to history.  Attention is paid to both Western and non-Western cultures, as well as the relationship between the two.   Through this course students will gain insight into past events and see how those events have led to current world situations.  Focus will also be placed on developing the skills and knowledge necessary to communicate effectively in an academic environment.


Introduction to Philosophy is an upper division course designed to introduce and reinforce an understanding of rational thought. It will focus on core issues in philosophy such as: the meaning of life, arguments for and against the existence of God, the problem of evil, the nature of reality, the search for truth, the mind-body problem, the importance of freedom, morality and ethics, and aesthetics. Cross-cultural, feminist and post-modern perspectives will be explored, in addition to the Western canon. Students will reflect on these issue through debate, discussion, and formal papers to develop analytic skills, evaluate arguments, and think critically and independently.

Global Issues

The Global Issues course will empower students with the critical thinking, analytical, and communication skills required to address a world in which increasing interdependence and interconnection demands global competence. Global Issues identifies and introduces those significant and diverse issues and events that have emerged as worldwide priorities in the 21st century, including; the global economy, human migration and immigration, climate change and environmental sustainability, human rights, conflict and terrorism, and worldwide threats to public health. Students will understand the importance of linking historical patterns of behavior and their causal relationship to the current state of world affairs. Through research, analytical writing, collaborative debate, and inquiry-based discussion, students will better understand influences that impact their personal bias and how their opinions withstand the test of reputable source-based evidence and facts. They will be expected to respect multi-perspective views, understand the critical necessity for media literacy, and reflect on their challenge as globally responsible citizens to bridge the barriers that divide.

Cultural Geography

This entry-level course looks at culture and geography through different thematic lenses. Cultural Geography allows us to look at the changing world, the global village, how geography has a cultural and societal response, and contains an interdisciplinary approach to history. Students should think of this course not just as a history of cultures, or memorizing maps, but rather students will approach this class constantly questioning and incorporating different disciplines that may include: an environmental, sociological, political, and economic perspective. This course’s focus is to develop skills needed for a successful high school career and development of critical learners.

World History Honors

The purpose of World History at Besant Hill School is to expose students to the events, cultures, and people that have shaped our world today. In this pursuit, students will develop the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in an academic environment and in the world beyond. At the completion of this course, students will have a conceptual understanding of the world’s major civilizations, including their origins, art, culture traits, advancements, and leaders from early man through the end of the 19th century. (A separate Modern World History course addresses 20th century content.) At the completion of this course, students will demonstrate critical thinking skills necessary to adapt to and engage in the rapidly changing world as global citizens. Some of these skills include: analyzing evidence, interpretation of evidence, comparison, contextualization, causation, recognition of continuity and change over time, periodization, and argumentation.

At the completion of this course, students will have demonstrated academic skills necessary to succeed in an academic environment. Some of these skills include: the ability to comprehend nonfiction text from a variety of sources, the ability to acquire and retain information from a lecture using a variety of note-taking techniques, the ability to formulate original ideas based on academic research, the ability to use both primary and secondary sources to generate defensible arguments, and the ability to execute multiple research-based written works in MLA format with proper citation. At the completion of this course, students will have practiced the characteristics necessary to succeed in aboth their personal and academic lives. Some of these characteristics include: self-discipline, commitment, inquisitiveness, and resiliency. At the completion of this course, students will willingly engage in this world from a place of understanding and empathy as global citizens. World History Honors at Besant Hill School is designed to investigate the development of the world’s civilizations by studying their political and economic systems as well as their social, cultural, and religious contributions to history. Through this course students will gain insight into past events and trends and recognize connections to current world situations.

AP U.S. History

Advanced Placement United States History at BHS is a chronological and thematic survey course in United States History covering the time period from Colonial America (1492) to contemporary America (2000s). “The AP program in United States History is designed to provide students with the analytical skills and enduring understandings necessary to deal critically with the problems and materials in United States history.

The program prepares students for intermediate and advanced college courses by making demands upon them equivalent to those made by full-year introductory college courses. Students should learn to assess historical materials―their relevance to a given interpretive problem, their reliability, and their importance―and to weigh the evidence and interpretations presented in historical scholarship. An AP United States History course should thus develop the skills necessary to arrive at conclusions on the basis of an informed judgment and to present reasons and evidence clearly and persuasively in an essay format (”  That said, the overriding theme throughout the year involves American diversity and changing political and social reactions to that diversity.

The course will emphasize key themes in United States history including: American diversity, identity and culture, demographic change, economic transformations, the environment, globalization politics, reform, religion, slavery and its legacies in North America and war and diplomacy.

AP Human Geography

Students will investigate the patterns and processes that have molded the human understanding, use, and alteration of Earth’s surface. Students will explore human social organization and subsequent environmental consequences through landscape analysis and application of spatial concepts. Finally, students will understand the methods and tools used by geographers, including maps and statistical tables.

AP Economics

The purpose of the AP course in microeconomics and macroeconomics is to give students a thorough understanding of the principles of economics that apply to the functions of individual decision makers, both consumers and producers, within the economic system, as well as providing students with a thorough understanding of the principles of economics that apply to an economic system as a whole. It places primary emphasis on the nature and functions of product markets and includes the study of factor markets and of the role of government in promoting greater efficiency and equity in the economy. In addition, this course places particular emphasis on the study of national income, price-level determination, and also develops students’ familiarity with economic performance measures, the financial sector, stabilization policies, economic growth, and international economics.